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Efficiency Benchmarks: Memory Usage

Web Browser Grand Prix VI: Firefox 6, Chrome 13, Mac OS X Lion
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Light Load

The placing for single-tab memory usage remains the same as what we saw in WBGP5, with IE9 in the lead, closely followed by Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Opera.

On Mac OS X, all of the memory usage totals are higher than Windows 7, and the order is re-arranged. The top spot goes to Opera. Second place goes to Safari 5.1, with just under 100 MB. Chrome takes third, while Firefox uses nearly 130 MB to finish last.

Heavy Load

For the first time in the WBGP, Safari manages to fully load all 40 tabs at the same time without freezing. Previously, we had to open each of the 40 tabs individually in Apple's browser.

In WBGP5, we also reported some odd behavior from Internet Explorer 9 in these tests. Microsoft's browser would display certain white space-heavy pages in all black, and sometimes freeze entirely. This time around, we used the WHQL-certified AMD graphics driver provided by Windows Update instead of the company's website, and this phenomenon did not occur. After running through the full benchmark suite, we installed the latest Catalyst suite and retested. Sure enough, the wonky behavior returns with the Catalyst driver installed. The video below shows the white space issue on Wikipedia at 1:20:

IE9/Catalyst White Space Fail


The next video show the complete freeze-up at 1:50:

IE9/Catalyst Freeze Fail


Now on to this story's 40-tab memory test:

The order again looks similar to what we saw last time. Safari uses the least amount of RAM to open 40 tabs. Firefox retains its second-place status, consuming three-quarters of a gigabyte. Opera is not far behind in third, still under 800 MB. Chrome 13 drops to fifth, allowing Microsoft's IE9 to jump into fourth.

In OS X, Safari 5.1 still uses the least memory of any Web browser, though nearly 100 MB more than it does in Windows. Opera moves to second place with 40 tabs open in OS X, hovering just over the 800 MB line. Firefox 6 uses nearly 1.2 GB to take third, while last-place finisher Chrome 13 uses a a whopping 1.8 GB.

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  • 5 Hide
    ne0nguy , August 29, 2011 4:22 AM
    The first chart says "higher is better" for the load time
  • 2 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 4:29 AM
    ne0nguyThe first chart says "higher is better" for the load time

    thank you, workin' on it
  • 8 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , August 29, 2011 5:14 AM
    Chrome is the best browser out there right now. While FireFox maybe more popular then Chrome is, Chrome has shown why it is the best browser out today. If you haven't used Chrome yet it's def worth a look.
  • 0 Hide
    soccerdocks , August 29, 2011 5:14 AM
    The reader function in safari actually looks really nice. Although I'd never use Safari on principle. I hope other browsers implement a similar function.
  • 0 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 29, 2011 5:21 AM
    why does firefox(6/8/9) performa so horribly on the IE9 maze solover test?
    chrome13 completely obliterats it.

    and firefox 8/9 are still a memory hog.
    not really surprised by poor show of ie9. moat updates it gets are "security updates".
  • -5 Hide
    tofu2go , August 29, 2011 5:50 AM
    Being on a Macbook with only 3GB of memory, memory is the most important factor for me. I open a LOT of tabs and I keep them open for long periods. For awhile I used Chrome, but recently switched to Firefox 6 and saw my memory utilization drop by well over 1GB. Granted with Firefox I was able to do something I am not able to do in any other browser, I could group my tabs into tab groups. I believe this allows for more efficient memory management, i.e. only the current group uses much memory. Not having done any tests, this is pure speculation. All I know is that I'm seeing MUCH lower memory usage with Firefox on OSX. Despite what this article would suggest.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 6:00 AM
    @soccerdocks

    Yeah? And exactly what principle would that be?
  • -7 Hide
    andy5174 , August 29, 2011 6:09 AM
    @Google:
    Bring back the Google Dictionary, otherwise I will use Bing Search, Firefox and Facebook instead of Google Search, Chrome and G+.
  • 0 Hide
    kartu , August 29, 2011 6:34 AM
    Quote:
    Firefox 6 comes in third for both OSes, representing a major drop from Firefox 5.

    According to the graphic on "Reliability Benchmarks: Proper Page Loads" on MacOS Firefox is actually second, not third.
  • 2 Hide
    LaloFG , August 29, 2011 6:37 AM
    I keep Opera, more memory used and time to load pages is nothing when it load pages correctly; and the feeling in its interface is the greater.
  • 0 Hide
    noob2222 , August 29, 2011 6:53 AM
    while these articles are entertaining, giving straight points skews the results a bit IMO. I think it would give more insight to give percentages in the analysis tables rather than just ranking them. After all, giving 1 pt for 5% better result out of the 5 is 20%, kinda throws off actual performance.
  • 1 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 6:57 AM
    kartuAccording to the graphic on "Reliability Benchmarks: Proper Page Loads" on MacOS Firefox is actually second, not third.

    thank you, workin' on it
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 8:09 AM
    On OSX browser 'vendors' are denied access to certain os hooks that would make their browsers better than they are.
  • 1 Hide
    yankeeDDL , August 29, 2011 8:14 AM
    Nice overview: thank you.
    These "browser" GP are getting more and more complete and the're always very interesting.
    I have to say, I am a bit surprised to see FF being so close to Chrome now: kudos to Mozilla.
    I have been using FF since 1.0 and only recently coupled it with Chrome (it is just convenient for me to have 2 completely different setups).
    FF 7.0 should have a significant boost in memory efficiency: if everything else stays the same, we´ll have a new champion ...
    But if anythin is clear from these reviews, is that nothing stays the same for very long in the browser´s domain (well, except IE).
    Looking forward to GP7, whenever that will be.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 8:40 AM
    Adam, you should have mentioned in the end that even if Safari won on OSX, the victory is a pyrrhic one as OSX lacks in Java and Silverlight plugin performance; OSX Lion is also very poor at system memory management and reliability.

    You should've put more emphasis on the actual scores and performances in tests rather than count the times when certain browsers placed 1st. Thus a browser that had a small advantage in more and minor tests and at the same time severe handicaps in more important but fewer tests would seem better, when technically it is not. Suggestion: tie all the candidates when the differences between them in a certain test are less than a single digit percent. Good article anyway.
  • 9 Hide
    cookoy , August 29, 2011 9:35 AM
    Quote:
    Mac OS X is capable of providing better results than Windows 7 in Flash, HTML5, WebGL, and the ever-important page load times.


    And to think Apple hates Flash...
  • 0 Hide
    damasvara , August 29, 2011 9:54 AM
    Tried Chrome, but somehow it doesn't behave the way I wanted. Browsing pages is faster with Firefox on 384 kbps internet. Makes me wonder...
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 10:34 AM
    noob2222while these articles are entertaining, giving straight points skews the results a bit IMO. I think it would give more insight to give percentages in the analysis tables rather than just ranking them. After all, giving 1 pt for 5% better result out of the 5 is 20%, kinda throws off actual performance.

    There are no points in the analysis tables. They simply list how each browser rates per category of testing. The 'Strong' part of the table was added a long time ago and it basically means that it's right up there with the winner in terms of performance. When we get a solid point-based scoring system figured out 'Winner' will only receive a minor boost above 'Strong', whereas 'Strong' will receive a significant boost above 'Acceptable', and 'Acceptable' above 'Weak'. We're not there yet, but we're getting closer with every WBGP. The composite tests are a BIG step in that direction, and the new benchmark rankings further lay the groundwork for a fair scoring system which accurately reflects scale.
  • 0 Hide
    adamovera , August 29, 2011 10:51 AM
    tgreaderAdam, you should have mentioned in the end that even if Safari won on OSX, the victory is a pyrrhic one as OSX lacks in Java and Silverlight plugin performance; OSX Lion is also very poor at system memory management and reliability.You should've put more emphasis on the actual scores and performances in tests rather than count the times when certain browsers placed 1st. Thus a browser that had a small advantage in more and minor tests and at the same time severe handicaps in more important but fewer tests would seem better, when technically it is not. Suggestion: tie all the candidates when the differences between them in a certain test are less than a single digit percent. Good article anyway.

    The analysis tables were created to balance the raw placing tables. The problem with what you're saying is that you would have to decide which categories are more important than others. Is JavaScript more important than CSS? Is HTML5 more important than Flash? This is going to depend on who you ask. People who only watch Netflix with an HTPC will put mega emphasis on Silverlight perf, whereas the chronic YouTuber will be more concerned with Flash, and devs are going to gravitate towards standards conformance. Ranking benchmarks based on the importance of what they test isn't a one-size-fits-all type of thing with Web browsers. As far as your other suggestion, dealing with practical ties, this is something we definitely want to look into moving forward. Thanks!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 29, 2011 10:58 AM
    I had to switch to Chrome, FF was crashing like crazy here, and i only have Firebug add-on installed.
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